Pritchard Day honors Titusville’s Confederate legend

Special to Florida Weekly

Now fully restored to its former glory, the historic Pritchard House in downtown Titusville will be bustling with activity Saturday, Oct. 20, during a celebration of its owner’s place in local history.

During the Pritchard Day Celebration, in honor of James Pritchard’s birthday on Oct. 21, 1839, visitors will be able to:

¦ Visit a Confederate camp and watch marching drills.

¦ View exhibits including Civil War artifacts, 1860’s medical supplies and ladies’ sewing and clothing.

¦ Learn about the Pritchard House restoration efforts, take a site tour and see a presentation of “family history” gardens.

The third annual event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 424 S. Washington Ave., is sponsored by North Brevard Heritage Foundation and Confederate Sons Association Indian River Camp 47.

Built for Capt. James Pritchard in 1891, the Pritchard House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The house officially opened to the public a year ago.

“We had Pritchard Day last October for the first time and it was very well attended,” said Roz Foster, founder and president of the North Brevard Heritage Foundation, which operates and manages the landmark for the county. “People were very interested in the exhibits and demonstrations, and this year we’re going to tour the house. Now we have it completely furnished and we’ll have some of our collections on display in addition to the furnishings.

“It’s one of the finest true examples of a Queen Anne-style house, and we attribute that to the fact that the house was continuously occupied by members of the same family,” said Ms. Foster, who also serves on the Brevard County Historical Commission and Titusville Historic Preservation Society. “Virtually nothing was ever done to it to ‘modernize’ it. It never had central heat and air, until now. Most of your historic homes have been modernized to accommodate modern living. It (the Pritchard House) is pure.”

The windows were repaired, the original screens were restored and the woodwork is all original, Ms. Foster said.

Many Titusville natives mistakenly think the house was moved there because the structure was, for a time, jacked up and put on blocks, Ms. Foster said.

“The reason we did that was we had to stabilize the foundation. When we set it back down on the piers, it was within quarter of an inch of being exactly level,’’ Ms. Foster said.

The bright color of the house — sometimes a complaint because of its intensity — was established through a painstaking process, Ms. Foster explained.

“Prior to 1900, this was very popular color, but around 1915 it fell out of fashion and people started painting their houses white or cream color, but still had accent colors. The architect and I went around and did paint scrapes all over the house. You actually scrape the paint down to the bare wood and the last color was the first color that the house was painted.

“It is actually a wonderful visual. When you come down the street you say, ‘Oh my, look at this gorgeous structure.’ We say this is our grand old painted lady of Titusville,’’ Ms. Foster said.

Ms. Foster started the process with the acquisition of the house from the family in 2003. The purchase took place in May 2005. Brevard County, assisted by the North Brevard Heritage Foundation, received a $350,000 historic preservation grant from the Florida Historic Commission for the project.

Between all grants from the state and county, and the amount of support from community businesses for in-kind services and materials, there has been more than $1 million put into the project, Ms. Foster said.

“All of the major elements are done. Now we’re doing the details and a lot of the detail work has been done by volunteers of the organization and the community,’’ she said.

Place for personal history

Pritchard House also serves as a great way for family heirlooms to be displayed, Ms. Foster said.

“I can’t emphasize enough how the community has gotten behind this with all of the beautiful things that have been donated to the house. We live in another time, and the children and grandchildren have no use for these beautiful things. So rather than putting them on sale and getting a few bucks for them, they donate them to the Pritchard House. These are beautiful things, all period, right down to the dishes and silver.

“When you step through the front door, it appears that someone is living in the house. It is not a ‘museum’ museum. The reaction we get is that it looks like somebody lives here, and that‘s what we‘ve tried to create,’’ Ms. Foster said.

The house is a showpiece, but the grounds also are getting noticed, with walkways and gardens now well established, Ms. Foster said.

“The gardens are open to the public during the day, and we actually have people come in and walk around looking at the different plants, but they also come and just rest in the shade. Some of the people who work downtown come and eat lunch.

“This belongs to the community. It’s like having a little piece of yesterday downtown where the public can come and sit and have a quiet moment. I think every once in a while you have to disconnect, and this is a place that you can turn off your cell phone and enjoy the butterflies and birds,’’ she said.

Confederate roots

James Pritchard was a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and a prominent pioneer citizen of Titusville for 50 years. He was active in banking, hardware, utility and real estate businesses until his death in 1926.

CSA Indian River Camp 47 will be setting up a Confederate Camp and displaying artifacts and reenactment equipment during the festivities.

“The camp was named after the original United Confederate Veterans Camp formed in Titusville in 1891, of which the first commander was Captain Pritchard,” said past local commander Mitch Morgan.

“The purpose of the Confederate Sons Association is to honor the memory of the Confederate soldier and the causes for which he fought. Our camp pays special homage to Captain Pritchard for his honorable service to the Confederacy, as well as the outstanding contributions he made to the city of Titusville, and we are happy to be a part of ‘Pritchard Day’ in honor of his birthday and his many accomplishments,” Mr. Morgan said. ¦

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